Sunday, January 24, 2010

Out of the nest

Lately I've been feeling some possible effects of burnout or overtraining. It's not so much that I'm logging more hours in the gym, running, etc., but partially because my overall personal stress level has been higher. There aren't many good specific reasons for that, it just "is". While the stress is easing up, I'm left with some injuries and chinks in the mental/motivational armor. The other issue is that I ignored the advice from Jake, from Jim, and from every marathon training book that suggests taking a month off from focused training after a marathon. I was riding that marathon high and didn't want to back down.

Jake and I met and he proposed a plan. First off, we're backing off of the structured running approach and he is leaving that up to me. I'm going to run three days a week - one day for strength, one for speed, and one longer - but the specifics and scheduling are up to me. That'll allow me to respond more to how I am feeling on a given day. Second, I'll work out solo one day a week at the gym with the idea that it'll be a little more low-key. No forced reps, drop sets, etc.

As much as I love not having to plan or think about what to do with my training and running, I agree this plan and increased autonomy makes sense for right now. Starting in March the serious training for triathlon season will begin, and on the heels of that a fall marathon, then BOSTON in 2011. This is the time to back down and gather my energy and fuel the fire.

Yeah, I feel a little like the baby bird pushed out of the nest. But I know it's what I need right now. Plus I'll probably appreciate all that Jake and Jim do, even more than I do now.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Post-run recovery shake

My favorite treat after a longer run (75 min or more) is the following shake that I mix up with my immersion blender, then drink straight up with a straw. This is a modification based on what the trainer suggested. I resisted the oats at first, but pureed in the shake they act as a nice thickener. Mmmm.

1 scoop chocolate whey powder
1 small banana or half a large
1/4 c. quick-cooking oats
1 c. skim milk
Add water as desired

I read somewhere (and can't remember where now because I think it was as I was drifting off to sleep, or maybe I dreamed the whole thing?) about an endurance runner who described how she came to terms with the effort required in a race, and she called it "embracing the beast." This idea that you court and invite the pain, revel in it, celebrate it. I thought about that a little on my run today, envisioning a short, fat, hapless, fuzzy beast.

One more random post. I was looking up inspirational quotes for my class today and found they had a section on running quotes. Two of my favs:

If God invented marathons to keep people from doing anything more stupid, the triathlon must have taken Him completely by surprise. ~P.Z. Pearce

The difference between a jogger and a runner is an entry blank. ~George Sheehan

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Wake-up call

I've been coming undone in the last six weeks, and it's all on my left side (oddly). First came the shoulder pull, not an unusual gym injury, but one that requires some careful handling to heal. Then on a sumo deadlift, I felt something pull, almost tear, from my collarbone area. The whole upper middle part of my chest has been sore, but again, healing. My left knee acts up now and again; that's the one I fell on at the Brush Mountain Breakdown. And on the time trial on the bike last week, it was the left quad that screamed the loudest.

So, naturally, I've been dancing around these issues, but unwilling to back down too much for fear of losing ground training-wise. Well, today I think I pushed my luck and I'm not so sure I dodged the bullet this time. That chest thing is back with a vengeance. It happened on a set of incline smith machine presses and I heard an audible POP. Scary.

This is my wake-up call that I'd better pay attention and take care because the LAST thing I need is something big to get in the way of all the things I enjoy doing. There is no race, no bench press meet, no nothing more important than being healthy to have fun swimming, running, biking, and lifting. It's time to back off and heal up.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Swimming thoughts

Today I met up with Jim at the pool for my swim workout. I thought about how far I have come since the first time he helped me back in about June. The latest things I need to focus on:
  • kicking up, not down, smaller amplitude of kick to keep my body in that streamlined "tube" without breaking new water. minimal kicking.
  • keeping one goggle in the water ("there's no more air up there than down here" as Jim says)
  • keep arms wide, on two tracks
  • get elbows up high sooner on stroke; straight arms only serve to raise the torso and adds to drag
  • find the balance between front-quadrant swimming and the long gliding stroke of swim golf.

Winter Trail Running

So far, this has been an uncharacteristically cold, snowy, and icy winter. We've had a warmer week so I thought I'd try a short run on the trails at Pandapas Pond in the Jefferson National Forest, about a 15 minute drive from the house. I put on the old trail shoes, iPod, carried my pepper spray (bears, whatever, you never know!) and set out. The trail switched between areas of thick mud and ice with stretches of perfect, soft, leaf-covered surfaces. The iced forced frequent slow-downs, but then I took full advantage of the areas where I could open up. About half-way through my planned loop, I came to a swollen Poverty Creek. I walked upstream to find there was no way to cross and stay dry, so despite the 40 degree temps, I forded the creek up past my knees.

Well, that unleashed something in me, and from then on, I bounded through every creek, puddle, and flooded stretch of trail and was amazed to discover that wet feet and legs at that temp were not a problem at all.

Trail running is something I'd like to do more of in the coming season.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

run/cycle/swim/lift updates

I'm working on getting my running mojo back a bit. Friday I had a short shake-out run/walk and Jake had suggested walking the dog. I took him up on it and the combination of having Trixie along, running in a different part of the day, and the warmer air put a spring back in my step that I had been missing. Trixie enjoyed it and I was reminded how incredibly good she is on the leash like least until she sees a squirrel. It was a good prelude to the following day.

I had a 17-mile run scheduled for Saturday and decided I didn't want to drive out of the valley for it, so I ran a big loop from the house with the elevation profile below. There was a nice climb for about 3 miles up through Deercroft and Nellie's Cave that humbled me to a walk on a few occasions. I bounced back and kept going through town, around campus, past the gym, up Main Street, returning via Mt. Tabor and Happy Hollow. About two and a half hours later I arrived back home. Most of my miles averaged around 8:25ish, but I logged a 10 minute mile and 11 minute mile up that blasted mountain, which was not as bad as I thought. There's just nothing like the feeling of knowing you can cover some distance on your own two feet - hit the zone and just keep going.

Friday I had a cycling time trial on Jim's CompuTrainer. He hooked my bike into his stationary trainer, added some sensors and controls, and off I went, eyes affixed to a computer screen, racing a computer nemesis. I led for most of the 10 miles but thanks to an overly aggressive start on my part, computer man won the race. I will seek my revenge in a few months time. This is what I ended up with:

10 mile TT = 29:22
Average watts = 196
watts/kg = 3.42
mph= 20.4
average HR = 163
Max HR = 174
spm average = 87
calories = 339

Incidentally, I had a bit of a swimming time trial too earlier in the week. I did a 400 in 6:52 and a 200 in 3:17. That wasn't so great considering I did an 800 in 14:35 not too long ago. I think it was an off day or I psyched myself out.

In better news, I hit a 130 bench press with a pause today. So that's coming along!

I'm continuing to focus on eating clean, getting good rest, staying on top of work, and minimizing mental stress. For a while now I feel like I have not been recovering well I think in large part due to stress. I'm getting a handle on it again, finally. It's important that things are kept in good balance otherwise they can quickly get out of whack.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Weekend update

My run went better on Saturday. It was cold - about 20 - and it took me the first half of the 9+ mile run just to feel warmed up. But I got that good feeling I've been missing on a beautiful morning. I know the cold scares many people off of running but I think if the fair-weather runners gave it a chance they would see how great it is to generate one's own heat on a freezing day!

I also managed a 135 bench on Sunday. It could be more even (left arm lags) but I got it, and did so pretty confidently. I wasn't feeling all that chipper walking into the gym either so it was a surprise. We are thinking that the time off last week probably contributed.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Lighten the legs and unburden the soul

I don't know if it's the winter weather or the stress of life that has piled up but I am searching for something I have temporarily lost...that freedom, that joy of running. It's noticeably absent from a treadmill in a gym and lacking on the perfectly lined and symmetrical track. It's present in abundance on unplanned runs that respond to the body, not the watch. It's there when the sun comes up over the crest of a hill. It lightens the legs and unburdens the soul. I remember it. I long for it.

The Song of the Ungirt Runners (1922?)

We swing ungirded hips,
And lightened are our eyes,
The rain is on our lips,
We do not run for prize.
We know not whom we trust
Nor whitherward we fare,
But we run because we must
Through the great wide air.

The waters of the seas
Are troubled as by storm.
The tempest strips the trees
And does not leave them warm.
Does the tearing tempest pause?
Do the tree-tops ask it why?
So we run without a cause
'Neath the big bare sky.

The rain is on our lips,
We do not run for prize.
But the storm the water whips
And the wave howls to the skies.
The winds arise and strike it
And scatter it like sand,
And we run because we like it
Through the broad bright land.

Charles Hamilton Sorley

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Random January 2010 updates

This is my current cycling setup...yes, in the bedroom. (It made sense at the time.) I never would have imagined what a good workout you could get on a stationary trainer, using just the gears to change resistance. I'm getting a bit spoiled by technology. I load the workout onto a Garmin, strap on a heart rate monitor, put my computer on the dresser, load a movie from Netflix, put on headphones, grab a towel, fill the water bottle...and OFF I go.

The cycle workouts I'm given really appeal to me. They are usually about hitting certain cadences or heart rate zones and aside from a stretch of 10-15 minutes to warmup, I'm usually not doing anyone one thing for more than five minutes. It becomes a game to see how close to a prescribed cadence I can stay, how high I can get my heart rate, or how quickly I can recover. Getting that instantaneous feedback from the Garmin Edge really motivates me.

So I'm logging miles, but going NOWHERE! The only evidence of the journey is a red face and nice puddle of sweat on the yoga mat below. The aero bars are new and I LOVE them, very comfy, and they sure beat trying to go aero using the brake hoods.

Looking at this picture, I'm wondering if the seat can come up some and the handlebars can come down some?

Today I found out that my bodyfat has dropped a couple of percent since the last time it was measured (late summer, I think) but my weight is pretty much at the top of my good range. Time to tighten up the discipline in the nutrition department. It'll help when school starts again and breakfast is automatic and all my meals up until dinner are packed so there's no deviating. My trainer is incredibly disciplined, probably more so than anyone I have ever known ever. When I need the accountability he's willing to step in and help, but I know what I need to do and just need to commit and do it.

The training program stayed pretty rigorous and fun through the holidays, so my cardio level has been good. I've been doing short-distance speed workouts on the track and my time on 220s is improving. The last speed workout was on the high school track because VT's was still covered in snow. It turned out to be pretty fun because a contingent of the BHS track team was out there which probably helped me push a little bit harder. I'm not seeing that speed translate yet into road runs. It may be the cold weather, I'm not sure, but I've been feeling kind of sloggy out there. I know spring will give my runs a much needed pick-me-up. For now, I still see every run as money in the bank and a key component to stress management. I just do my best and have faith that in the long run the effort is paying off.

One fun running change-up was that I did my longest run (15+ mi) since Richmond on New Year's Day at 5:30 am with friends Michaela and Shannon. We chatted the whole time, kept a conservative 9'ish pace, and ran down the middle of deserted roads around town. It was a lot of fun! Shannon is a 2:50 marathoner who is training for three 100-mile races this year. He is just a machine when he runs, I really don't know how he does what he does, but it's inspiring to watch. And Michaela is seasoned, solid, and confident. She teaches many of the group fitness classes and is in outrageous good shape.

I've been nursing a minor shoulder issue for a couple of weeks. When anything is wrong I find it very distracting. I've had this sort of thing before and shoulder stuff seems to be notorious for taking their time to clear.

I'm taking a few down days this week (does learning to snowboard count?) and heading to Pittsburgh, then more training fun for winter races. Then in 4-5 months the triathlons will start and I'll be ready. I'm also ready for these temperatures in the teens and low 20's to moderate.